How to Get Out of a Creative Funk During Lockdown
posted on August 6, 2020 | by Sanhita Mukherjee
Have a designated work area, get dressed in the morning, keep your desk free of clutter — if you look for advice on how to work effectively from home, you’d probably come across these tips.
As a freelance writer, I knew all of these even before the lockdowns started. I’ve been working from home for a couple of years now — and to be honest, though the lockdowns have been stressful (because you know, pandemic), I didn’t really expect it to impact my work schedule or productivity levels to a great extent. Since I already had the hang of working alone for long hours without interacting with others, I thought that part at least would be a breeze.
Boy was I wrong! A couple of months in, I quickly started noticing a drop in motivation and productivity. The creative ideas were not flowing as easily as they used to. Tasks that should have taken just a couple of hours now started taking up my entire day. I even had a day when I found it difficult to string together a basic sentence for an email! I knew I was going through a major creative funk.
If you are a freelancer working in a creative field, you might be going through something similar right about now. Here are a few things I did that helped me get through my creative funk — and hopefully, these will help you too.
Identify and tackle triggers
This seems obvious, but our mental health has a huge impact on how creative we are. If you are in a place that has you stressed out and worried, that could be the main reason behind your creative rut. Unfortunately, this is a time when, as freelancers, we do have a lot on our minds. Getting new clients, keeping your business running smoothly, the financial aspects of the job — all of these are valid concerns.
Identifying and tackling these triggers can be a good place to start. While even thinking about these things can be stressful, ignoring them (even if for a little while) can actually be worse! If you’re anything like me, these stressors stay at the back of your mind, nagging away even when you’re doing something enjoyable. And these can be little things too. For instance, the pandemic has prompted many of us to branch out into unfamiliar areas with our work, and one of the new things I was working on was unlike anything else I had done before. I realized I was putting that off and worrying about it the whole time, which was impacting my work. Once I realized that, I focused on getting that project completed. Getting it done took a load off my mind — and I could then work on making it better.
Depending on what’s on your mind, your methods of tackling it might be different. You might need to alter your business strategy, seek professional help, or change up your mental wellness routine. But chances are, once you identify what’s bothering you, it’ll get easier from there.
Do something just for fun
This is, of course, a great time to pick up new skills, take online classes and learn the things you never had time for before. But in times of such great uncertainty, you might feel like you need to be productive all the time to get through this. So if you pick up a book, it has to be one that’ll help you learn something new. If you’re going for a walk, you feel like you’re wasting time unless you’re also listening to a professional podcast. Sound familiar?
Unfortunately, constantly absorbing new information and trying to be productive can be one way to put yourself in a rut. We are often at our creative best when we unwind, let our minds wander, and even let ourselves be bored once in a while. So resist the urge to constantly upskill, set more goals, or catch up with all that’s new. Watch that cute rom-com instead of that informative documentary. Read the thrilling new bestseller instead of that classic tome. If you have an extra hour before bed, do something fun like drawing, coloring or journaling instead of using the time to get ahead of your work the next day.
Get some rest
This follows from the previous tip, but when things are uncertain, it can be tempting to work longer hours and pack as much into your workday as possible. This leaves you exhausted physically and mentally — which of course, is not great for any kind of creative work.
Overtaxing yourself today is just doing yourself out of creativity tomorrow — and internalizing this has really helped me prioritize rest. Of course, the workload for a freelancer is never constant. There are still days when I work long hours or negotiate a particularly tight deadline. But I do try to balance it out later. After all, when you are free to set your own schedule, why not take advantage of that? Sleep in when you need to, take on less work every now and then, and try to keep your weekends free if you can.
Change the way you work
As a freelancer, you probably already had a work setup at home (ergonomic chair, great stationery, cheery desk plants, you name it!) and a schedule that was perfect for you. So why is that carefully curated work routine no longer inspiring you the way it used to?
As for me, I realized that I had really underestimated the importance of the other things I used to do to bring variety to my days. You know, like go out on weekends or work from a café sometimes or travel frequently. All these things helped fuel my creativity, so when I needed to work, I could sit at my desk and get started right away. Now, what with spending my days in the same environment every day, my usual work routine just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
The good news is, changing around some small things can be just what you need to get yourself out of the funk. Try working from a different space one day (yes, even if it’s your bed!), change up your timings or put on some different kind of music from what you usually listen to. I was particularly surprised with this last one. As a writer, I could never focus with music on in the background — but I recently tried some mellow tunes and was taken aback by how easily it helped me focus.
These are some of the things that I found helpful, and I hope you do too. But at the end of the day, it’s also important to cut yourself some slack. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic after all — so don’t beat yourself up for not being at your creative best!